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The skull beneath the skin - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
j4
j4
The skull beneath the skin
Several relatives of friends are sick or dying, and there is nothing I can think of to say to comfort my friends, there is nothing that will comfort them, and nothing I can say that would not seem insultingly futile. But it is not just my futility that keeps me silent. It is partly the fact that the first thought that always -- horribly, selfishly -- comes to me is "It will be my relatives next". And from there it's a small step to "and then it will be my friends, and then it will be me".

["I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am."
]

Nobody can imagine death, the absence of self. We imagine by imagining ourselves as the viewer, the onlooker, the person having the experience; we can't imagine the inability to view, to look on, to experience. Even imagining other people's reactions can only be achieved with the implicit imagination of oneself as the observer. The self cannot imagine itself out of existence. Imagination dead imagine. It's a black hole which hurts the soul, and the more you look into it, the more it paralyses thought.

The thought comes and hisses its whispers of mortality into my ear when I am close to sleep, or alone, or tired, or in some other way emotionally vulnerable. You will be gone, it says, and no matter what you do, you will have done nothing, nothing. And I think of all the things I want to do, and how little time there is, and how much time I have already wasted, and how much more time I will waste, and I feel nauseous, panicked.

If I start counting I'm done for. Divide and conquer. If I live to n, I'm over a quarter of the way through, in two years it'll be more like a third, and look how fast this year has gone, halfway through already, and how much faster it gets, the accelerator jammed down to the floor, out of control, towards the cliff-edge. Figures buzzing around my head like flies. If I read a book a week, that's 52 books a year, which means I only have n times n times n more books to read in my life, which means I should be choosing more carefully, should be whittling my life down to top 50, top 10, top 5, top 1, top what-would-you-do-if-you-knew-you-were-going-to-die-tomorrow?

And then comes the guilt for feeling this when others are older. I should be grateful. For what? That people I care for are first in the firing line? How can I be grateful for that? The fear comes on me physically, viscerally, dissolving me, reducing me to that heartbeat, that insistent ειμι (οιμοι!) by which we are all declared gods of our separate worlds.

The panic assails me at every level; faced with an hour of time, I worry how little time that is and how little I can do in that time out of the millions of things I want to do. Inevitably I end up wasting the entire hour doing nothing, paralysed by indecision, It is only when the time is over that the motivation returns, telling me do something! anything!, and of course then there is no time, only guilt for time wasted, piling up around me in persistent whispers, like rumours, like sand.

["I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story… I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."]

Thus it is in the bigger picture, with life as a whole. Now more than ever. I feel as though I'm freeze-framed, waiting for somebody to un-pause my life. I want to live now, and I don't know how. The minutes tick away as if they were years, and I'm grasping at them so frantically, so hopelessly, that they slip through my fingers until I'm hopelessly sobbing, clutching, clawing at the fabric of space and time, screaming stop, wait, I WANT MORE LIFE.
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Comments
mobbsy From: mobbsy Date: May 24th, 2004 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Give up. You can't do everything, you can't read everything, you can't understand all of history, you're only human. There is only so much life, it seems sad to waste it all on ruing what you've missed. Enjoy what you learn, your friends smiles, your displays of excellence, unexpected gifts and chance meetings.

When I'm happy I'm follow this advice, when I'm unhappy I'm regretting things that never happened or will now never be. I prefer being happy.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 24th, 2004 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Give up.

So tempting. :-(
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: May 24th, 2004 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Some years ago, that was me. It isn't any more. Not that I'm happy at the idea. Not that I want to go. But the panic just subsided.

I think that in the end, not even a metaphysical terror can hold on to you for ever.
rbarclay From: rbarclay Date: May 24th, 2004 05:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Several relatives of friends are sick or dying, and there is nothing I can think of to say to comfort my friends, there is nothing that will comfort them, and nothing I can say that would not seem insultingly futile.

Yes, there is.

Be there. Offer a lap to lay down in. Or a shoulder to cry on.

It helps. Strange that it is.

Usually, in such situations, people want to talk about loss. And nothing's easier than mere listening. If you're there, mostly people flee.
j4 From: j4 Date: May 28th, 2004 10:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Except most of them don't want to talk about it. Not everybody thinks "talking" is a cure-all.
rbarclay From: rbarclay Date: May 28th, 2004 11:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Then they won't talk. Doesn't matter much as long as they could.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: May 28th, 2004 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I feel as though I'm freeze-framed, waiting for somebody to un-pause my life.

Well, it was YOU, not anyone else, who got yourself a job which is better than the one you used to have. You are the one who achieves all you achieve with passing tests to get better belts and learning new moves, playing an instrument, managing to buy and get used to a new car, working hard to support yourself and pay off the debts you do have.

If other people in your life are pulling as much weight as they can and no more then you know they aren't the answers, either - but as a friendly outsider it seems to me you could free up a lot of energy by getting out of any blind alleys which aren't leading you where you want to go. But that's just me.

A suggestion: what about getting rid of clothes which don't actually fit you (bodily and/or mentally and/or spiritually) any more? One shelf or suitcase or bag at a time? But maybe you've done that already!
j4 From: j4 Date: May 28th, 2004 10:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, it was YOU, not anyone else, who got yourself a job which is better than the one you used to have.

Better in the short term. In the long term it's just as futile. I'm making as little of this job as I was of the previous job; the problem is me, not the job.

passing tests

As a child I used to think that that sort of thing mattered. I have a box full of certificates for exams in piano, violin, flute, ballet, god knows what. They don't prove anything.

working hard to support yourself and pay off the debts you have

Yes, I'm hoping to get to a stage where I'm no longer beholden to anybody, so I can die without people resenting me for shuffling off their money along with this mortal coil.

getting out of any blind alleys which aren't leading you where you want to go

This assumes that I know where I want to go. Or that 'where I want to go' is somewhere I can go.

getting rid of clothes that don't fit you

Not sure how this will help with knowing I'm going to die alone and unloved, but never mind. I've got a roomful of clothes which have been put aside for selling or giving away; I haven't had time/energy to do anything useful with them. Even after that I still have too many clothes to fit in the space I have for them. Maybe I should just get rid of everything I own. It'd mean less stuff for people to deal with afterwards I suppose.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: May 28th, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not sure how this will help with knowing I'm going to die alone and unloved, but never mind.

You don't know that you will die alone and unloved: alone, yes, we all actually biologically die alone, but you may well have an attended deathbed, and to judge by your on-line friends, you won't die unloved.
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